Let’s talk about heroes. There are the day to day heroes who touch our lives in realistic ways. Moms or Dads rate big in this department. Then there are the Untouchable Heroes. Sports legends, politicians, movie stars. And of course, musical heroes. I think my earliest musical hero was Julie Andrews. Raised on the double whammy of Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music, Julie Andrews was the first woman who’s voice I tried to emulate, (English accent and all). From Julie, my musical female heroes expanded to include women in many different musical genres and styles…Karen Carpenter, Bonnie Raitt, Stevie Nicks, Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Barbra Streisand, Dolly Parton, Aretha Franklin, Emmylou Harris. These singers molded and shaped the singer I am today. Melody, phrasing, harmonizing, vocal licks – they were my schooling. They were the Untouchables. And this list would not be complete without Linda Ronstadt.
She had that voice; that voice that launched a thousand evenings of me, singing along at the top of my lungs in my bedroom. And I learned so much from the Ronstadt school of singing. The news, this week, that Linda has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease was unbelievable to me. One of my Untouchables is ill and her illness has stolen her voice. And I am heartbroken.
Now, I must confess. I like the rockin’ Ronstadt best. The one who belted out When Will I Be Loved, and You’re No Good. I also loved her early ballads: The Moon’s A Harsh Mistress, Blue Bayou, and Heart Like A Wheel. And I can’t forget the awesome country trio stuff she did with Emmylou and Dolly. Her voice always captures me no matter what style she’s singing in. Just a few years ago, I saw her in concert here in Boston, and I was struck by the purity of her instrument, her control and interpretation of the songs.
Linda Ronstadt – When Will I Be Loved
Linda isn’t a songwriter. In the long run, this fact was crucial to my musical upbringing. Growing up, I loved the Linda Ronstadt Greatest Hits Songbook, singing along while accompanying myself on the piano. One cool thing about the book was that every song featured a picture of the songwriter. As I got to know these songs, I started to pay attention to the writers behind her hits. Essentially, Linda Ronstadt lead me to discover Warren Zevon, Jimmy Webb, Jack Rhodes, Karla Bonoff, Hank Williams, Lowell George, Anna McGarrigle, and J.D. Souther just to name a few!
(If you don’t know these songwriters, please take a moment and google them right now. You won’t regret it!)
I recorded one of my favorite Linda songs, Willin’ by Lowell George for my Berklee audition way back when. And that recording got me the vocal talent scholarship that convinced me that maybe abandoning a successful career in advertising to jump into music wasn’t such a crazy idea after all. In retrospect, it probably was crazy…and I would do it again in a second. This morning, as I’m about to drive to a gig, I can’t help but think about Linda, and I realize how tangible her impact has been on my career. Who knows? If I hadn’t sung Willin’, maybe I wouldn’t have had the courage to have taken this path; this amazing, wonderful, challenging songwriting and musical journey that has defined and shaped who I am… So, thank you Linda. I wish you all the best in this world.
Linda Ronstadt – Willin’